Four Easy Steps to An Organized Closet

The National Association of Professional Organizers has dedicated January to clean out those closets, but don't wait for January -- now is the time. Exciting this task is not, but by devoting a couple of afternoons this month you can reduce unnecessary search time and you may even find some extra storage in the process.

Most people have heard of the 80/20 rule -- that individuals wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. Everyone's closet would be beautiful and orderly if it only contained 20% of its original contents. Don't worry! I am not suggesting you unload those limited-wear pieces, but I do propose some sorting and storage principles be put in place in those freshly organized closets.

Disclaimer: Now if this task seems too overwhelming, please start small; try the hall closet first to build your confidence. We will review a clothes closet, but many of the steps discussed below can be applied to any storage area.

Step 1: Begin by selecting your messiest closet and removing its contents. During this process, take a good look at what you have and consider donating or tossing items that have not been touched in years. Remember these items are taking up valuable storage space. Be honest with yourself and make the effort to purge the old, the size-challenged, and the "what was I thinking?" . If you can't bring yourself to part with some of these items (even though you know that you should) box them up, put the date on the box and store it in the basement or attic. If you haven't touched the box in one year toss or donate it without opening.

Step 2: Now it's time to put away the items you have decided to keep. As you put things back, keep like things together (for example long-sleeved shirts) and remember to store items based on how they are used as well as their frequency of use. Placement is important -- store special occasion dressings in the back , while frequently worn items should be up front and between shoulder and knee height. Don't forget about the floor space under your short hanging items. Purchase clear containers and store out of season sweaters and shoes (no, not together); don't forget to label, so next year there will be no unnecessary dumping. If you are storing sweaters or non-hang shirts on your top shelf consider shelf dividers; these keep those stacks from tumbling into one another.

Step 3: Finally consider ways to maximize the space you have. The back of the closet door provides some wonderful untouched storage space. Add hooks for robes and your comfy sweats or purchase one of those nifty door units for additional storage. Another storage option is hatboxes (not just for hats!); they are great for storing small accessories and look really nice on your shelf or neatly stacked on the floor.

Step 4: What you hang your clothes on really does make a difference. All your hangers should be the same type (yes -- get rid of those wire hangers from the dry cleaners). Replacing hangers can be as costly or as inexpensive as your taste and budget dictate. You can pick up a pack of plastic hangers for a few dollars or you can buy some really good-quality padded or wooden hangers. You have gone through all this effort to make things organized and this last detail can really pull it all together.

Once everything has a place and fits, you are encouraged to keep it organized and clutter free. Maintenance is key and will only require minimal effort if completed daily. A few minutes of hanging, folding and tossing in the designated basket keeps everything in its place. I almost forgot -- leave about 10% of your storage free for future purchases. There will be no cramming or stuffing in this new Organized Closet!

Copyright 2004 Bridget Messino

About the author: Bridget Messino is a Professional Organizer and co-owner of Clutter Free Living, Inc. Her work frequently appears on many Internet sites and on her own organizing site Clutter Free Living as well as in her monthly Home Organizing Newsletter How to Be Clutter Free. Subscribe to the FREE monthly e-newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to [email protected] com

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